Born at East St. Louis, Illinois, on October 28, 1894, he earned the Medal of Honor while serving with Company C, 28th Infantry, 27th Division near Exermont, France, on October 5, 1918 during World War I.
He died on December 9, 1937 and was first buried in St. Adaldert's Cemetery in Niles, Illinois. He was subsequently reinterred in Section 6 of Arlington National Cemetery.
From a news report:
The Doughboys called him “The Lone Wolf.” Newspapers described him as the “Sergeant York of St. Louis.” Radio announcers introduced him as “Machine-gun Mike ” but on Army records he was plain Sergeant Michael Ellis of St. Louis, possessor of the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Silver Star.
This camp was officially named in his honor approximately 26 years after Sergeant Ellis performed the dangerous missions that made him a national hero. His deeds closely paralleled those of Sergeant York.
Fighting was bitter in the Argonne sector that damp, dreary day in the autumn of '18. Ellis' outfit, the famous First Division, was in the thick of the raging battle. During the engagement, Sergeant Ellis operated far in advance of the first wave of his company, voluntarily undertaking the most dangerous missions, single-handedly attacking machine-gun nests. Flanking one emplacement, he killed two of the enemy with rifle fire and captured 2 prisoners, including two officers and six machine-guns which had been holding up the advance of his company. The captured officers indicated the location of the other four machine-guns and Ellis in turn captured these, together with their crews.
The distinguished soldier was born in St. Louis on October 28,1894. His mother died when he was an infant, and his father was too poor to provide for him properly. Little Michael was adopted by a Polish family who lived in East St. Louis, I11. When he was 12, he quit school and went to work in his foster father's printing plant. After four years a more exciting sort of life beckoned. He wanted to be a soldier, and he could think and talk of nothing else. His father witnessed his under-age enlistment at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, on February 8,1912.
He saw service with Company K, 7th Infantry, along the Mexican border and at Vera Cruz. When his three years were up, Ellis received his honorable discharge, but after six months of civilian life he re-enlisted. He was promoted to corporal on April 16,1917: and to sergeant one month later.
After many memorable campaigns throughout France, battles in which Ellis displayed amazing valor and ingenuity while utterly disregarding his personal safety; he was promoted to first sergeant. As a private in Company C, 28th Infantry, First Division, he saw front-line action for 200 days near Soissons, France. He was awarded the Silver Star. The official record of the War Department states:
“He showed unusual courage in carrying supplies and in attacking strong points at Brouil, Pleissy, and Berney-le-Sac. Our allies, recognizing Sergeant Ellis' bravery, awarded him the Chevalier Legion of Honor of France, and the Croix-de-Guerre with Palm, the Cross of War of Italy, Cross of War of Poland and Recognition by the Moroccan Government, two medals, Senior and Junior.
In August 1919, Sergeant Ellis returned to the United States and St. Louis, where General Pershing presented him with the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was the only soldier in Pershing's First Division to receive this honor. He was feted and toasted for his gallant deeds, but later, when he sought civilian employment, it was not to be had. Informed of his status, President Coolidge provided for Ellis' employment at the Post Office in St. Louis.
On January 2, 1921 he met a bright-eyed, attractive young woman of Polish descent. They discovered they had been childhood playmates in East St. Louis; they had many memories of mutual interest. Thus began a postwar romance that culminated in marriage on February 13,1923, in St. Louis.
Sergeant Ellis died of pneumonia in a Chicago hospital on December 9,1937. He was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.
ELLIS, MICHAEL B.
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company C, 28th Infantry, 1st Division. Place and date: Near Exermont, France, 5 October 1918. Entered service at: East St. Louis, Illinois. Born: 28 October 1894, St. Louis, Missouri. G.O. No.: 74, W.D., 1919.
During the entire day's engagement he operated far in advance of the first wave of his company, voluntarily undertaking most dangerous missions and single-handedly attacking and reducing machinegun nests. Flanking one emplacement, he killed 2 of the enemy with rifle fire and captured 17 others. Later he single-handedly advanced under heavy fire and captured 27 prisoners, including 2 officers and 6 machineguns, which had been holding up the advance of the company. The captured officers indicated the locations of 4 other machineguns, and he in turn captured these, together with their crews, at all times showing marked heroism and fearlessness.
ELLIS, MICHAEL B
1ST SGT CO C, 28TH INF, US ARMY, MO, MH
- DATE OF DEATH: 12/09/1937
- BURIED AT: SECTION 6 SITE 9520
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard